Obituary: Eric Delony (1944-2018)

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Eric Delony (right) with fellow historian and preservationist Mary-Ann Savage at the Bollmann Truss Bridge in Savage, Maryland. Photo taken in 2014

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Author’s update: Funeral Arrangements are being planned for historic bridge preservationist Eric Delony, who died on October 23rd. According to Information from Christopher Marston, it is being scheduled for January 2019. When and where has yet to be determined, but the Chronicles will inform you in due time as soon as everything is finalized.

Mr. Marston, who worked with Eric for many years, write a much-detailed version of the obituary, honoring him for his three decades-plus work in documenting and saving historic bridges, much more than what the Chronicles covered when having honored him with the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement. This was done in 2016. With his permission, the detail of his life and work are written below. More Information on him and the stories behind his historic bridge preservation will follow. For now, enjoy reading about Mr. Delony from Christopher’s point of view:

Eric N. DeLony, who served as Chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1987 to 2003, died on October 23, 2018, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Over his career, Eric became known as a pioneer in historic bridge documentation and preservation and one of the nation’s leading experts in historic bridges. In recognition of his achievements, Eric was the recipient of the 2000 General Tools Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Industrial Archeology.

 

Early Years at HAER

After graduating from the Ohio State University in 1968, Eric was first hired as a summer architect on the New England Textile Mills Survey, a joint project of the Smithsonian (under the leadership of Robert Vogel) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The following year he became a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, HAER’s very first field team. This ambitious project documented several industrial sites and bridges in the Albany area, and team members were challenged to devise new recording techniques for manufacturing and engineering structures. His detailed drawing of the Troy Gasholder remains the logo of the Society for Industrial Archeology to this day. Once he completed his Master’s in Historic Preservation at Columbia University under James Marston Fitch (where he first met his lifelong friend and colleague, preservation educator Chester Liebs), Eric was hired as HAER’s first full-time employee in 1971. HAER began recording a variety of bridges and other industrial structure types as part of state inventories and themed surveys. These included surveys of the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, Paterson and Lowell mill towns, and later mining, steel, power, and maritime-related sites, among others. Eric also helped initiate “SWAT teams” to record endangered structures prior to demolition. By 1987, Eric DeLony had been promoted to Chief of HAER.

 

HAER Historic Bridge Program

In collaboration with Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric began developing the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to identify and protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s efforts, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs). The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.

After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to undertake HAER summer documentation projects that would more intensively document representative bridges, with the first taking place in Ohio in 1986. Using funding from a variety of partners like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOTs, and historic groups, HAER recording teams collaborated with national and local experts to produce large-format photographs, histories, and drawings of hundreds of historic bridges in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, from 1987-2001. Eric also worked with engineering professors such as Dario Gasparini at Case Western, Stephen Buonopane at Bucknell, and Ben Schafer at Johns Hopkins to hire students to compile detailed engineering analyses of a variety of historic bridge types, going beyond traditional architectural history reports. In appreciation of Eric’s initiatives, the White House and ACHP presented HAER’s Historic Bridge Program with a National Historic Preservation Award in 1992.

In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes at various NPS units. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document the roads and bridges of large western national parks, national battlefields, and eastern parkways. HAER also partnered with New York and Connecticut to record several historic local parkways. The drawings of these projects are compiled in America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2004).

Eric DeLony was also influential in HAER’s involvement with a third major initiative involving FHWA and historic bridges. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to save them. The resulting National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 as part of the TEA-21 transportation bill. HAER received research funding beginning in 2002 to document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as developing other educational initiatives including engineering studies, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, and National Historic Landmark nominations. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. These include the 2015 publication Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2018.

 

Nationwide Advocacy

Eric was a longtime member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s to allow experts to share research and preservation experiences. Eric attended his last one in 2011; the 25th was held in 2016 in cooperation with the Historic Bridge Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also an active participant with the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) beginning in the 1990s, which was comprised of professionals from state DOTs, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric DeLony co-authored A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types with Robert Jackson, for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.

Not satisfied to just record historic bridges, Eric was also determined to see as many bridges as possible saved and preserved. Some of the projects that Eric championed included: the 1828 Blaine S-Bridge and the 1868 Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio; the 1869 Henszey’s Bridge in Pennsylvania; and the 1858 Aldrich Change Bridge in New York. As Ohio DOT’s Tom Barrett reflected, “Through Eric’s encouragement, I feel that the historic bridge inventory in Ohio has stabilized and improved in many ways. We strive to explore all plausible alternatives to demolition and find ways to educate everyone on proper rehabilitation and design solutions. Hard-fought successes here and nationwide in bridge preservation will always be a part of Eric’s legacy.”

Eric’s advocacy extended beyond bridges to roads as well. As Preserving the Historic Road conference founder Paul Daniel Marriott stated, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy [were needed] for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”

 

International Influence

Eric studied at Ironbridge with Sir Neil Cossons in 1971-72 as a Fulbright Scholar, and this experience led him to encourage collaboration between HAER and industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. Eric consistently hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange students for his summer field teams beginning in 1984.

He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). He also worked with several prominent European scholars, such as Barrie Trinder at Ironbridge and Louis Bergeron at Le Creusot, on various publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Another issue that Eric championed has finally shown dividends; after several decades, the U.S. delegation finally nominated the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

 

Post-career Legacy

After retiring to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, Eric became a bridge preservation consultant. Maintaining “The Pontists” email list, he advocated for various bridge preservation causes and initiatives, and continued to write and teach.

An avid collector of rare books, technical reports, and images of historic bridges, Eric donated his collection to two prestigious archives. The “Eric DeLony Collection of the History of Bridges and Bridge Construction” was established in 2010 at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. In 2013, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri received the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering & Bridge Collection.”

After health issues removed him from public life, Eric continued to receive various honors acknowledging his legacy. Beginning in 2014, David Wright of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges established the Eric DeLony Scholarship, an annual prize awarded to a college student interested in historic preservation. Eric was also a recipient of the 2016 Othmar H. Amman Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 3,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection at the Library of Congress, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testament to his lifelong determination and passion for saving historic bridges.

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 9: Concrete Bed in the River

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A first in the Bockau Arch Bridge series since July and a lot has changed since then. It goes beyond the change in the color of the leaves in the fall, as you can see from the picture of the trees flanking the Zwickau Mulde from the old bridge.

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It goes beyond the fact that workers have poured the concrete on the new structure built adjacent to the old bridge. This was done in August and according to latest news from the Chemnitz Free Press, the new B-283 Bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic by Christmas, thus ending the detour of Highway B-283 between Aue and Eibenstock in the western part of the Ore Mountains, which has until now been rerouted through Zschorlau and Schneeberg.

It has to do with a finding that was discovered during our most recent visit to the bridge and our Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge Association Meeting on October 9th, something very unpleasant and will most certainly cause legal action because of the violations committed. Despite many headaches trying to download this clip from my camera, this 5-minute film tells all, even without the commentary in English…..

And after crossing the old bridge to get to the Bockau side of the span, we could see the “Schandfleck” in detail. A total “Schande” (shame) because of several reasons!

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According to several sources, the old bridge is supposed to remain in place until it is demolished and removed in the spring in 2019 with a pair of very important exceptions:

1. Since the bridge is still protected by the Denkmalschutzgesetz (German Culture Heritage Law), documentation of the structure will need to be carried out before its removal, which includes ist history, description and historical significance to the Region. If following the Guidelines that exist in the USA, that process could take 1-2 years to complete.

2. The Investigative Committee (Ausschuss), located in the state parliament in Dresden, which took on the petition to save the bridge back in March, has yet to decide on the bridge’s fate. At the present time, the association has three possible suitors that are willing to take ownership of the bridge once the new B-283 Bridge is completed. If Dresden says yes to the proposal, then the association has until March to name the suitor willing to take over ownership of the old bridge. If not, then the green light will have been given to proceed with the removal.

3. Even if Dresden says no, a copy of the Petition was forwarded to Berlin; specifically the Deutschen Bundestag (German Parliament) and the  Deutsches Nationalkomitee für Denkmalschutz (Geman National Committee for Cultural Heritage), for the bridge carries a federal highway and if therefore responsible for the ownership of the bridge, which is still protected by the Cultural Heritage Laws (Denkmalschutzgesetz). That Petition has been accepted and the bridge is being considered for a program to protect places of interest, thus providing funding for restoring and repurposing the bridge.

Having the concrete bed in the river, according to multiple choices may have violated these agreements and then some, for the Zwickau Mulde is protected by several natural preserve laws on both the state and federal levels. With the concrete bed in the water and despite the two pipes running underneath, it will have the potential to hinder the flow of fish flowing downstream, which could cause unrest from some of the local fisheries and fishing clubs along the river.  Despite the need for having the bed there for the eventual removal of the old bridge, having the bed there is too early and could possibly cause some violations that could result in some legal actions.  A gallery with pictures taken by the author will provide you with some Details.

Photo Gallery:

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To summarize, the old bridge is still standing and can be crossed despite being partially blocked off. Yet the concrete bed indicates that workers want to go ahead and demolish the bridge before Christmas. The new bridge is almost completed and will open between November and December. The fate of the old bridge falls in the hands of both Berlin and Dresden, yet as the bridge is the ownerhship of the federal government, Berlin will have a say, yet if and how the old bridge can be saved is still open. There are interested parties in owning the bridge but the group cannot push forward until the government has a say in the whole debacle. And even if the group gets the go ahead, the decision of who owns it has to be made before spring 2019. And even then, funding will be needed to rehabilitate and restore the bridge.

In other words, one has to happen after another in sequential order, yet some people are trying to make haste by putting the carriage before the horse- meaning tear the bridge down before the ownership transfership is approved and inspite of violations they make be committing.  This mentality is clearly American and has been the target of comments by the German far-right party AfD to compare modernization in Saxony at the cost of historic places of interest to the works of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This commentary, albeit very harsh, is not far from the truth, and should the old Bockau Arch Bridge come down too prematurely, it may serve as a basis for more voters to flock to the AfD and for the current government in Saxony to topple come the state elections in 2019. If the party uses the slogan “Remember the Rechenhausbrücke!” similar to the Alamo in Texas, the people in Saxony will understand why.

Membership to join the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Freunde der Rechenhausbrücke):

There are many ways to join the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge. To join and simply follow the page is as easy as clicking here and liking the page. But to really get involved and help out in saving and supporting the bridge financially and/or through other means, please contact Ulrike Kahl at this E-Mail address: ulrike.kahl@gruene-erzgebirge.de She can provide you with a membership application form and other information on how you can help. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles if you only speak English but still would like to join.

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Historic Structures and Glasses: Restore vs. Replacement in Simpler Terms

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Co-written with sister column, FF new logo

The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site.  This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.

Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.

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Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.

Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.

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The author’s sunglasses: the older model from 2005 on top; the newest pair from 2018 at the bottom.

Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.

In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.

So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches.  The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name.  The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside.  As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?

There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled.  More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.

And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of  these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.

The Bridge at Pointer’s Ridge. Built in 1910 by the Western Bridge Company of Omaha, NE. The Big Sioux River crossing was one of five bridges removed after years of abandonment in 2012. Photo taken in 1999 when it was still open.

One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980.  At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since.  A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle

This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument?  Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or  flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care.  The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.

Big Sioux River Crossing at 255th Street: One of five bridges removed in 2012 after decades of abandonment. Photo taken in 1999.

For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house.  Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that.  Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.

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In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.

To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.

The Bridge at Iverson Crossing south of Sioux Falls. Built in 1897, added to the National Register in 1996. Now privately owned. Photo taken in 1998.

We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.

 

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Chemnitz Viaduct Spared Demolition

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1901 Viaduct no longer part of the plan to modernize the Hook south of Chemnitz based on decision by Ministry in Berlin.

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CHEMNITZ, GERMANY- The Hook in Chemnitz, located in the central part of the German State of Saxony, is a 2.8 kilometer railroad bypass that encircles the southern part of the City Center. It includes the railway Stations of Chemnitz-Mitte, Chemnitz-Süd and Chemnitz Central (Hauptbahnhof). The entire Stretch is 65 years old, has been considered outdated and not suitable for modern (long-distance) trains, especially as the City is working together with the German Railways (The Bahn) to have long-distance trains passing through Chemnitz for the first time in 15 years. Yet the good news is that this missing link is a big step closer to reality. The German Ministry of Railways in Berlin, on Friday, approved an 80 Million Euro Project to reconstruct the Hook, which will feature new railroad tracks between Mitte and Central, new train stations at Mitte and Süd, upgrading them to fulfill modern (and also) handicap standards, the removal of a functionally obsolete bridge at Mitte and the replacement of four bridges.

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One of the bridges that is not part of the plans is the Chemnitz Viaduct, a 117-year old K-Frame arch viaduct that the City and local Groups have fought for over six years to save and preserve. The story behind this bridge can be found in an earlier article written by the Chronicles here. According to a 227-page Report by the Railway Ministry in Berlin (Eisenbahnbundesamt) and confirmed by German Station MDR-Sachsen, a clause stated explicitely that plans for a five-span modern arch bridge is not in the interest of the German Preservation Laws and the German Government:

Der geplante Abriss des Chemnitztalviaduktes wird aus denkmalschutzrechtlichen Gründen abgelehnt. (EN: The planned demolition of the Chemnitz Viaduct has been rejected because of its Status as a Legally-Preserved Monument).

The decision has been met with relief for many and a victory for others, as the viaduct has been considered part of Chemnitz’s history, even though it is the second crossing at this spot. Its predecessor was a 12-span concrete arch bridge that was built in 1884 crossing the River Chemnitz and Annaberger Strasse, serving the Nuremberg-Hof-Zwickau-Dresden Magistrate. Due to flood risks, a steel arch viaduct built 20 meters higher and 50 meters north of the site was built in 1900-01 and the arch span was later removed. The Viaduct has been serving rail traffi ever since.  Plans for demolishing the viaduct was first presented in 2003 as the Bahn had presented a proposal to modernise the Hook. The plan was met with a high, sturdy wall of resistance, which featured online petitions, presentations, initiatives and even a structural study by bridge engineers with experience restoring historic bridges– All of them supported restoring the historic bridge and making it suitable for long-distance trains, in particular the InterCity trains from Cologne and Nuremberg. As with the measure involving the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine, they even brought this matter to court, where the Office for Preserved Artefacts (Denkmalschutzamt) decided to forward the matter to the Ministry of Railway in Berlin, with success on the part of the historic bridge and the City of Chemnitz.

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The Railroad Overpass at Chemnitz Süd, one of five bridges along the Hook that will become history in 2019

 

With this decision, the Bahn has decided to proceed with the plan of modernizing the Hook without the Viaduct. Construction is expected to begin in the Fall 2019 and should last four years. The bridges expected to be replaced will include a 1920s bridge at Chemnitz-Süd, a concrete overpass at Chemnitz-Mitte stemming from the East German times and two smaller bridges. As for the Chemnitz Viaduct, the bridge will not be renovated before 2022 which gives all parties time to come up with a plan to restore the bridge to accomodate rail traffic and calculate how much time is needed to complete the second phase of the project along the Hook.

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This will not affect the reintroduction of InterCity trains for delays in electrifying the line between Glauchau and Weimar via Jena combined with problems with modernizing the rail line south of Hof in Bavaria will most likely result in the use of diesel trains for the IC-trains before the electrification project is completed by 2030. Furthermore, the IC-line to Rostock via Leipzig and Berlin will most likely be in service before 2020, which will put Chemnitz back on the map and  in the Fernverkehrsnetz (Long-distance Train Network) for the first time since the last ICE-Train passed through in early 2002.

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 5

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What’s in a name? A bridge is just a bridge as it crosses a ravine, body of water or even a roadway from point A to point B. This is where this week’s bridge pic comes in. A “natural” bridge spanning a deep ravine connecting a park with a castle……

in Saxony……

in Glauchau…..

The Hirschgrund Bridge has been in the news recently because construction has yet to begin on this 300+ year old stone arch structure. Why has there been a delay?  You’ll love the author and the Glauchau City Council for this….. 😉

The debate over the name of the bridge!

In March of this year, the contract was let to a company for rebuilding the bridge, the name Hirschgaben Bridge was used. However, in the documents on the city’s budget plans was the name Hirschgrund used. This caused a lot of confusion as to how the bridge should be named. On the on hand, Hirschgraben was used because the ravine surrounding the castle was very deep – on the same level as the riverbed of the Zwickau Mulde River- a difference of 30 meters. Geologically speaking is Hirschgraben correct. And according to oral history is Hirschgraben the name used when talking about the bridge and the ravine. Historically speaking, Hirschgrund is also correct as it focuses on the whole complex itself, which includes the castle, park and ravine. In most history books one will find Hirschgrund. Yet given the preference of one or the other, the names of both were both correct, according to multiple sources.  Given the need to cross their Ts and dot the I’s the debate on which name is correct was one of the reasons for the delay in allowing the construction to start.

The other was the city council’s rescinding of the contract to the first firm in favor of the second because the costs were cheaper and the second one was left out of the discussion the first time around. There had been four but only three officially presented their proposals.

In either case, now that the matter over the name has been settled, not to mention the costs and time wasted in “yammering” about it, construction on this natural bridge is about to begin. June is the starting date and the project is expected to take a year to complete. How the bridge will be rebuilt will be presented when the finished product opens to foot traffic for privacy purposes. But it does lead to the question of how this bridge- abandoned for almost five decades- will be reconstructed…..

….or whether it should remain as is: a natural bridge. If that was the case, then the City of Glauchau would learn a great deal from the City of London’s Natural Bridge project.  🙂

This was the reason behind this pic of the week after my visit to Glauchau. Not to mention to the plea mentioned in the Instagram page: It’s just a bridge! Fix the damn thing for once!

Fast Fact: Yammering is German for “jammern” and means simply to complain a great deal like a kindergartner.

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 7: Don Quixote’s Windmills

April 24th, 2018. A beautiful day in the village of Bockau. A wonderful chance to photograph the Bockau Arch Bridge. But sadly this may be the last time doing it. While a total of 25 people gathered at the site of the Bockau Arch Bridge, the consensus is pointing towards the digger and wrecking ball to this almost 150-year old structure. Neither the mayor of Bockau, nor the one in Zschorlau want it left standing. A member of the Saxony Ministry of Construction and Transportation claims that the construction of the new bridge on new alignment and with that the demolition of the old bridge is a done deal. This is especially given because the new bridge was being constructed in a natural habitat and according to agreement, both bridges must not exist.  And given the aggression presented by members of the representatives from Dresden, it appears that they favor the transformation of Bockau into a modern village is more important than simply saving relicts of the past.  So this day may be the last I get a shot of this structure and a gorgeous view from on top, like these ones:

So with all the skepticism that I just posted, the question is why are we still fighting for the bridge if the State of Saxony wants it their way with the bridge?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leicher als das:

Despite claims that the construction of the new bridge is a done deal and that the old structure would need to be removed, there are a few silver linings that were mentioned during today’s meeting. First of all, attempts to compromise were presented, some of which were to the disliking of one party or another, others were worth considering. The first compromise was presented by the mayors of Albernau and Bockau, where the bridge would be partially removed with the remaining two spans to be converted to an observation pier. That was completely rejected as it would be the same as demolishing the bridge plus the consensus is to keep the entire crossing over the river. As the bridge is protected by the Preservation Laws, it would be taken off the list if the bridge was altered in any way. To especially the mayor of Bockau who strove to see the bridge disappear, the suggestion to cut the bridge into bits is as bitter as eating pickled gizzards.

Onto option 2, which is redo the contract which would include keeping the bridge in its place. The reason behind it was the lack of communication behind what to do with the old bridge. When the contract was let for the new bridge, there was no information as to whether the contractor has the right to remove the old structure, nor was there any public input or even a referendum. Good idea but with one catch: The contract would need up to five years, and no further construction would be done on the new bridge. Furthermore, it needs approvement by both Dresden as well as the federal government, both of whom had originally given the green light for the current project. An attempt to partially redo the contract to omit the removal of the old sturcture is currently being considered.

And henceforth we look at option three, which is looking for new ownership. It is concluded that once the new bridge is open, the old bridge no longer will be the care of the federal government as it carries a federal highway (B 283). As neither Zschorlau nor Bockau want to take it, we must look at some interested third parties or partake on a joint public-private venture to own and maintain the bridge. Despite jumping the gun with claims that no one wants the bridge, there are enough parties in terms of persons and organizations who might take over. This include bike organizations as the bridge crosses the Mulde Bike Trail, a rails-to-trails route that connects Adorf with Aue. The person who takes over will need to ensure that the bridge is properly maintained and inspected and take over responsibility for any incidents and accidents that may happen. The advantage is the fact that if the bridge was handed over, it will be in the state as it was before it was closed, like this:

Originally, 1.2 million Euros would have been needed to refurbish the bridge which given its current condition it was not necessary. One needs to fill in the cracks and ensure the arches are ok, which they are:

The lone catch is that the clock is ticking. Since the meeting, we have not even a full year to find a new owner or come up with a reasonable concept that will be to the liking of the parties involved. Despite the claims of lack of feasiblity and the lack of want with regards to the bridge, we did conclude that if we could come up with a plan to keep the bridge in tact, the historic structure is ours for the keeping. The condition is that the north approach would need to be rebuilt to provide access for pedestrians and cyclists. Because of the Mulde Bike Trail and its potential to become a “bike-autobahn”, the bridge would be a perfect, easiest and safest crossing connecting two communities. However, all it needs is support from both the public and private sectors. No support, no plan, and that means no bridge.

And with that, no more photos of such a beautiful old stone lady……

…..holding a dandelion in its stone cracks……

waiting to give it to her supporters, including Ms. Ulrike Kahl, who was interviewed after the meeting.

And why Saxony needs a bike-autobahn along the Mulde, let alone how the German Preservation Laws work in comparison to the American one can be found in the coming articles. Stay tuned.

Help needed: What success stories have you had with public-private partnerships with bridges? What concepts would you present to convince all parties to keep the bridge in place? What practices have worked in the past. Any ideas, contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below:

Will accept all ideas in German, Spanish and French as well. All ideas are welcome.

 

A news story by German public TV station MDR was carried out on the same day and can be seen here.  Follow-ups will come. 🙂

 

Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge: Day 6- Gearing up for the Big Show

The chips are falling into place. State representatives have been invited. Examples of restored historic bridges being restored are being collected, together with the costs. The motivation and the ideas towards saving the bridge is running sky-high. And since yesterday, the signatures on the petition to save the bridge and facebook likes are coming in like a wave of water rushing with great intensity down the canal.  🙂

This was the mentality of the committee as we met at the Rechenhaus Restaurant next to the Bockau Arch Bridge last night (on 17 April). Since our first meeting a month and a half ago (and with it, the start of this blog series), members have been calling around to get the people involved and join in the debate to save the bridge. And despite some missing ingredients, we already have a full set of people willing to sit down and discuss ways to save the bridge.  And with that, here is what we know:

On 24th April at 11:00am, we will meet at the Bockau Arch Bridge (in case of bad weather- at Schneeberger Strasse 1 in Albernau). There we will have the following people on hand to discuss about the future of the bridge:

State representatives of Saxony:

Stephan Hösl (Christian Democrats)

Luise Neuhaus-Wartenberg (Linke- Socialist Party)

Karin Wilke (Alternative for Germany- Far right party)

Ulrike Kahl (The Green Party)

 

Also included:

Members of the Ministries of Business and Transportation, plus Interior, The Mayor of Bockau- Siegrid Baumann.

The list is not completed as we’re looking at inviting someone from the Ministry for Cultural Heritage of Saxony, a representative from the Social Democratic Party and the Free Liberal Party, regional bike organizations, the mayors of Zschorlau, Aue and Schneeberg, and especially experts involved with restoring historic bridges in Saxony. And we have enough examples to go around.

Ungenutztes Viadukt in Oberlochmühle
The Viaduct at Oberlochmühle. Source: http://grenzenloses-erzgebirge.de/oberlochmuehle

We have collected many examples of bridges that are being restored or are planned to be restored in Saxony, with some cost figures that dwarf the increasing cost for building the new bridge on a new alignment. Already mentioned in an article is the reconstruction of the Hirschgraben (or as some call it Hirschgrund) Bridge in Glauchau at a cost of 1.4 Million Euros, we also have a new project that will be launched this summer with the unique Ratzkotz Arch Bridge near Görlitz (at 2.4 million Euros) and the Eger Bridge near Reichenbach for 2.5 million Euros. Another bridge in the vicinity of Marienberg at Oberlochmühle is being considered for renovation to become a rails-to-trails crossing after sitting idle for over four decades. All these examples are stone arches about the same length as the Bockau Arch Bridge.  We’re hoping that at least one of the project representatives can join to talk about the funding for the project.  Also wishful thinking is a film documentary about the bridge similar to a couple examples, including the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine. But we’ll have to wait and see if this is even possible, given the time and cost for producing even a 3-5 minute segment.

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Bockau Arch Bridge as Cultural Heritage Site

What I did learn about the bridge is that despite the missing information about the bridge builder for the stone arch structure, the bridge is listed as a German Cultural Heritage site on the state level. That means  state funding is available to restore the bridge if they wish to do that. In order to remove the heritage status to allow for the removal of the structure, a form has to be filled out describing in full detail why the historic bridge should be torn down. Administrative costs in the hundreds and thousands are imposed and the process could take a couple years to complete. While claims that the deal to tear down the bridge once the new structure is open between the Community of Bockau and the construction firms responsible, is complete, it doesn’t mean that there is no last-minute deal to save it. No form to take the bridge off the heritage list has been submitted, and it sounds as if nothing will happen to the bridge as long as we have a plan to save the structure and find ways to finance it.  Surprising and shocking is that an environmental and cultural impact survey was not carried out to determine the after-effects of replacing the historic bridge. Already rock cliffs are being blasted to make way for the new road and bridge, which is changing the landscape bit by bit and explains the reason behind the closure of the bike trail within a 4-kilometer radius of the bridge.

The Inconvenient Truth

Still, the logic behind the closure of the stone arch bridge is still a mystery. As mentioned earlier, since the closure of the bridge, the restaurant has lost over 60% of its customers. We were the only customers at the restaurant this evening. Yet the owner has had some surprises. They included Syrian refugees visiting the bridge and the restaurant, a large group of bikers having to stop at the restaurant to get directions to get across the bridge, and several people circumventing the fences just to cross the bridge. It really shows how very inconvenient the bridge closure has been. I will be videotaping the long detour to show how much time is needed to make the 15 kilometer detour to be posted on the facebook page. The planning was just simply way too poor. Already the price for the new bridge has skyrocketed from 3 million to 12.5 million Euros. When the new bridge opens, it will be another example of money well-wasted, just like the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport project.

Summary

And so to sum up our meeting, the pieces of the puzzle are just about in place for the meeting on the 24th of April. What is needed are a few experts for bridge restoration, a couple representatives who can vouch for saving the bridge, and lastly some more history lessons on how the bridge is built. The third one I’m working on and should have it ready in time for the meeting. But above all, we need as many signatures and likes on our page to show our guests that we care about the bridge, even from abroad, and that when there is a will to save the bridge, there is a way to do it- private or public.

Historische Ansicht Rechenhausbrücke

And with that, we need your help:

We need 2000 Likes and 2000 Signatures between now and the 24th of April to be presented to the state representatives. Click here to sign the petition to save the bridge. Click here to like our page and get the latest on our project to save the bridge. Help us convert the bridge into an important connection for bikers and pedestrians. One can imagine the old bridge and the new one standing side-by-side. You can as well.

Some more articles from the Chronicles will be included including politics and saving a historic bridge as well as the German Cultural Heritage Laws, comparing it with the US. But your likes and signatures will make a big difference.

 

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